I’ve left little bits of my heart all over the world. I say “heart bits” because I feel that there have been many events, places, and people to which I have connected deeply.

The Pacific Northwest, specifically Oregon, is one of these heart-places. I’m not sure how to describe the feelings of familiarity, or the somewhat restless energy that comes from a place in which, relatively speaking, I’ve spent very little time.

I was fortunate to travel to Portland for a conference a few weeks ago. It was a cool experience to hear presentations from academics whose books and articles I cite frequently. I also reconnected with some of my old colleagues and professors.

The last day of the conference, some of my colleagues and I drove to Canon Beach, known for its tide pools and the monolith Haystack Rock. Next to it are The Needles . . . ha ha, get it? :)


I decided to stay another day in the Hawthorne Hostel. It’s located in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Portland, sports a green roof (literally), and is one of the most sustainable hostels I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at. They hold educational workshops there as well! So. Flippin’. Awesome. Here’s the street view:

My friend from “the Euge” came up to spend the day — I was so happy to re-connect with her, spend an hour or so in Powell’s, and walk about town taking in the many sights, smells, and libations that Portland has to offer. We even got to see Junot Diaz present at the Bagdad Theater and read excerpts from his new book This is How You Lose Her. All in all it was a pretty great day.

Several days later, as I was looking through the pictures I took during the trip, there was one that immediately struck me. It offers a glimpse of the amazing natural beauty that is the Oregon coast. For me, it relates an intimacy/warmth, as well as a bit of sadness. I wasn’t able to sit and meditate, like the picture seems to promise.

I know that I will always have a special place in my heart for Oregon. In the years to come I will continue to make the trip back to the Pacific NW, if only to feel that special rush from reuniting with a friend after several years and several thousand miles apart.

Con amor,



I don’t care what people are saying about cupcakes, tarts, or cookies. Pie is still hottest thing since sliced bread.

This summer my sibs and I went to a beautiful pie shop in Brooklyn called Four and Twenty Blackbirds. They offer a rotating assortment of homemade pies (and slices), as well as other sweet and savory goodies. Naturally, we had to strategize our order so that we could taste as many as possible. Leave it to the middle kiddos to mess it up and order the same pie!! Sheesh :)

We sampled the Black Bottom Oatmeal, the Salted Honey, and the Strawberry Balsamic pies. We devoured them, as evidenced below:

In light of my love for pie — which, unlike the number is totally rational (he he) — I wanted to share with you a simple, delicious recipe for pie crust. I also use it for quiche, since it’s not sweet at all. Feel free to adapt it to meet your needs.

Pastry Crust (makes enough for two crusts)
2 sticks of cold butter
pinch of salt
2 3/4c. flour
1/4c. ice cold water
Mix dry ingredients together and add butter. Cut in the butter until it has become incorporated into the flour so as to give it a more “grainy” texture.
Some people prefer to use a food processor, but I like to do it by hand with a pastry blender/knife. Once it’s been thoroughly mixed add half of the ice water. You don’t always have to use up all the liquid and you may or may not need more flour. Get the dough to where it isn’t sticky (too much water) or overly dry (too much flour), as you want it to malleable. By this time the dough with be getting slightly warm, so either make a big ball or separate for 2 pies depending on how many you need. Cover them individually with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least one hour, and up to twenty-four. Take it out of the fridge for 7-10 min. so that it has a chance to soften slightly prior to working the dough on a floured surface.

I’m baaaaack!! I spent 7 weeks sharing teaching and administrative responsibilities in Spain for a group of 33 high school students. After organizing travel excursions, lesson planning until the wee hours of the morning, and eating a lot of tortilla, I returned to the states a little . . . . well, beat.

What does a girl do when she’s tired, overstimulated by the amount of English around her (which she hasn’t really spoken or heard in almost 2 months, mind you), and most of her belongings are still in her luggage??? Answer: She keeps it all there, adds nine or ten bottles of homebrew to it, and hops a plane to NYC to spend a weekend with three of her dearest people in the world: her siblings.

I have to say that New York, New York is a wonderful town. There’s so much to see and do, you could really spend an entire month there and not even get to it all. On that note, nobody ever said that you had to see/do it all. I mean, there are NYC natives we met who haven’t been out of their borough. Ever. They’ve got everything they need right in their general vicinity. I find it fascinating.

For the four of us, we wanted to have a good mix of the touristy (the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island) mixed in with the daily grind, the adventurous (I kept trying to get on the “wrong” metro) and the serendipitous (like this cool bar in Park Slope called “Mission Dolores” or the heaven-sent taco stand “El Diablo Tacos” . . . pun intended.)



Not to mention the “Best Worst Picture Taken By A Stranger”:


I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity to be with my family. Y’all are an exceptional bunch, and this was an experience to remember for a very, very long time. -XO

Plaza de Toros

Silvina and I took a tour of the plaza de toros in Sevilla which included a visit to the museum and gallery that are located under the seats, as well the capilla (chapel) where the matadores go to pray before entering. Did you know that they have their own “hospital” on-site? I didn’t, but it certainly makes sense. Nor did I know that the corrida de toros had its origins in the Middle Ages, or that one of their suits can weigh more than thirty pounds (15kg)! The tour guide was incredibly informative, eloquent, and friendly. The museum, while appealing to my interests in history and art, ultimately made my stomach turn. When I see depictions of the bull with banderillas (smaller, hand-held spears) sticking out of its body, or the horse lying wounded on the ground in front of the bull, the first thing I see is unnecessary slaughter and pain for entertainment. This was really the only way I could enter the plaza de toros . . . empty.


Museo de Bellas Artes

There was a gem of a museum located two blocks away from our hostel, brimming with the works of Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Mesa, Gonzalo Bilbao, and the famous portrait of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer. With an entrance fee of €1.50, it’s a steal! You also get the added benefit of enjoying the ambience and architecture of the seventeenth-century church that forms the majority of the museum’s galleries and patios.

Alcázar de los reyes (above)

This is phenomenal. If the Alhambra inspired M.C. Escher, I wonder what might have become of him had he visited Seville!? The interlaced geometric patterns that nearly cover the surface of this Mudejar fortress are so intricate. Some of them are carved, some are fitted tiles, and others are painted. The Arabic word for God — Allah — is scrolled along the walls, doors, and ceilings.


The transformations that were made by the Catholic Kings are visible in the images of animals and the official emblems of the medieval kingdoms, Aragón y Castilla, which were united upon their marriage. The gardens are extensive, although I was surprised to hear that they were significantly expanded in the 1950s. Underneath one of the main patios exists a series of baths, which were supposedly created by King Pedro I at the behest of his mistress, María de Padillas. Hence, the name Los Baños de Doña María de Padillas, (pictured below).



La Plaza de España

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” Luke Skywalker and Princess Leah walked along this plaza in  Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. (Here’s a link with Spanish dubbing, if you’d like.) For each province in the country, there is a small alcove tiled with a pastoral scene and a map. I was more interested in watching other people interact — perhaps that’s a bit creepy — and the late afternoon sun playing on the buildings.


It’s 35 degrees (95 F) here in Sevilla and it’ll only get hotter. . .

Unlike Italy, my stay in Spain has more to do with the academic side of things. I did some preliminary research and got registered at the Archivo General de Indias so I could consult a few documents before I leave. Sadly, two of the three files that I was looking for are in reproducción, which means that they are being digitized. While that sounds like good news, I was told that the file eventually had to make its way to Madrid, which can mean 2 months to a year of waiting before I have online access. (Sigh.) I’m going to see what else might be of use to consult.

With my “free” afternoon, I went to the Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla to marvel. The tomb of Christopher Columbus, regardless of my personal feelings towards his legacy, was a spectacularly detailed monument. He is carried by four men, each adorned with the symbol of one of the four medieval kingdoms: Castilla (the castle), León (the lion), Navarra (the constellation looking shield), and Aragón (the bands/stripes). His remains have also had quite a journey to this current resting place. He died in Valladolid, and was later placed in Sevilla. He was then taken across the Atlantic to be interred on the island of Española, until the French captured the island and he was taken to Cuba. Once Cuba was no longer a colony of Spain his remains were transferred again to Sevilla, to the tomb you see below:

I spent over two hours in the cathedral and I don’t think that I got to see everything. There is an enormous treasury, a patio of orange trees (an area once occupied by a patio in the original mosque), a smaller temple/church incorporated into the cathedral, and so many adorned doorways that I got turned around. At this point my attention span started to dwindle, so I decided to climb the tower. It’s mostly an inclined ramp all the way — 47m elevation gain — up to the lookout.


But what would all this walking, sightseeing, and document not-finding be without some delicious tapas?! The Bodega Sta. Cruz (“Las Columnas”) was a nice place to relax. The food is reasonable (order at the bar), the beer is cold, but the highlight is listening to the barmen bicker and talk to you about the people a few feet away. Turn left as you exit and explore some of the smaller alleyways and the Jewish quarter below:


Oh, and did I mention that I love Andalucía?

This has got to be Italy’s most unsung-but-deserving city! Has anyone heard of it? I’m sure there are people who have heard about Bergamo, but when I think of Italy, it’s not the first (or even fifth) city that comes to mind. Nonetheless, Bergamo is a lovely place that is easily accessible and navigable — you’ll see why this is important in a minute.

The town itself is divided into upper and lower cities, the Città Alta and the Città Bassa. To access the upper part, one takes the bus up to the edge of the walled city. Here one “could” walk up to the very top . . . or one has a ticket for the funiculare (cable car) and enjoys the view as it climbs the slope. There are two cable cars, and I recommend being sure to catch the second one as it takes you to Bergamo San Vigilio, and a spectacular view of both the Città Alta and the Città Bassa.

Starting at the top and working our way down, we walked around everywhere! It was sort of fun to make a random turn and see where we ended up. We arrived in the middle of some fair, as the Piazza Vecchia was filled with booths and tables of information on activities and health. Nearby, the Cappella Colleoni and Santa Maria Maggiore were a sight to see with black, rose, and white marble façades.

The churches were filled with amazing works of art . . .  the streets were full of people. The Rocca di Bergamo provided a nice lookout and a resting place.  We took the cable car down to the lower city and walked around, saw a sustainability fair (way to go Bergamo!), and then decided to ride the bus back to the Città Alta. 

As our luck would have it, there was a traditional music festival in the old plaza. I was mesmerized by the guy playing the ghironda, so when a bagpiper also took the stage I was hookedThe best part was that the people began to dance — all sorts of traditional dances — from the first song to the last. Young and old, whether the moves were familiar or not, the people were having a blast! I couldn’t help but think it a shame that we don’t have a dance like that in the states where everyone can participate. (Or do we? The chicken dance and the electric slide don’t count, but please feel free to offer other suggestions.)

All in all, I had a lovely time in Italy and bid it a fond farewell. Before moving onto the next stage of summer, I leave you with these words of wisdom from someone that continues to learn things the hard way: do not sleep overnight in the airport, as it is neither affords you sleep, nor is it worth the piddly amount of money you saved. You and your travel partner(s) can become grumpy. You’re also sure to be sleep deprived and might kick the other (unintentionally) as you adjust your position on the floor . . . which you share with a mass of people. It’s ugly. Don’t claim a moment of memory lapse and do it again next year. Just. Say. No.

Genova (la Superba) is the second largest city that I’ve visited in Italy. Although it’s a common practice in Europe, it was nice to be able to take the train into Genova and walk around, explore the city, and look at all the details in the architecture . . . and there are many. If it were possible that walls could talk, I would spend whole afternoons with rapt attention.


Genova is credited as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and the house where he is said to have been born is right outside the walls of the old city, the Porta Soprana. Passing through we made our way down to the seaside, where the Acquario di Genova as well as all the fancy sailboats are located.

(Of course!) All this walking works up an appetite. We had lunch outside a café and enjoyed the people watching before heading off to sightsee some more and have a caffè macchiato.

In front of the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the present structure completed during the 15th century, Luisa pointed out a detail that I hadn’t noticed: the architect had carved a likeness of his dog into one of the columns. Apparently he loved his dog enough to immortalize him in marble. I can empathize.


Man’s best friend

By far, I took the most pictures of the indoor market. Who knew that there were so many types of tomatoes?! For better or worse, going grocery shopping has always been an excursion. Roommates of houses past have declined offers to carpool to the market because I take so long. I can’t help it. I like to take my time looking, touching, smelling . . . it’s a sensory experience and I daydream of new dishes to create with my edible surroundings. But I digress. Perhaps the old adage, “you eat with your eyes,” rings true.


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